Matthew "deftly" Chen's rookie year was a season of trials and tribulations. Despite the AD carry's performance being more than acceptable for a rookie, Golden Guardians was outgunned and outclassed in the 2018 NA LCS. The Golden State Warriors affiliate started off its franchise with back to back last place finishes.
Golden Guardians made it clear that the year one top priority was to learn and build for the long-term. Selecting deftly and Jungler Juan "Contractz" Garcia as the only remaining pieces, Golden Guardians retooled everything around the two young players for the 2019 LCS. In addition to an entire new staff, decorated veterans Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell, Henrik "Froggen" Hansen, and Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung were signed to the roster to match the firepower of other LCS teams.
GGS's spring split got off to a rough start at 0-4, but the team is riding a wave of momentum after a 2-0 week 3. GGS secured its first win of the season against a stiff OpTic Gaming on Saturday evening, and triumphed over TSM on Sunday to force a four way tie at the bottom of the LCS.
After Golden Guardians' Battle of the Bay victory, deftly sat down with Inven Global to discuss his rookie year, bonding with his new teammates, and stepping into the shoes of Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng as Olleh's laning partner.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, deftly. How are you feeling after your first 2-0 week in the LCS?
I feel elated and relieved. Before our games this week, I felt a huge amount of pressure to turn the season around, and I'm glad that we as a team were able to come out with the 2-0 weekend.
Did the 0-4 start bring more gravity to the situation?
Honestly, I don't think it our 0-4 start specifically had much of an effect of anyone. As individuals, we know we're all really talented and strong players, but when we put the pieces together on stage, things weren't working out. We had really good results in scrims for the past month and a half. It was really hard for us to transition on stage, but this week, we were able to show more teamwork than we were previously and come out with a pair of wins.
No one was cracking under the pressure we knew we were under, everyone just kept grinding and working our hardest and talking about the important stuff. It's a lot easier to ignore your problems, but we really cracked down on our conversations this week and told each other what everyone was messing up on individually. We let out all of our frustrations, and that progress showed in our last two games.
Why weren't your scrim results translating to your on stage play?
In scrims, we're really carefree. Previously, we'd pick really aggressive champions and team compositions that require closing out the game quickly to win. For example, we would smash people in scrims with picks like Draven/Thresh and win the game as fast as possible. It worked in scrims, but on stage, everyone plays with a lot more discipline. Since everyone is playing more safe, it is a lot more difficult to create those individual lane leads.
In the first two weeks of LCS, we tried to pick three winning lanes, a winning jungle matchup, and just try to smash the game without thinking much about our team composition. This week, we drafted for teamfights and what was best for the team as opposed to what champions are best for us as individuals. Who cares if you get a 10-20 CS lead if you can't make it to the mid game on even footing? That was our mindset going into this week, and it's worked great.
Do you think the changes to the meta also helped your team this week?
I think we had a bad read on the meta. Two weeks ago, we didn't think Galio/Rakan was that good of a combination. We thought we'd give it to any team every game, because if it sucks in laning phase, we can just beat it, right? Obviously, we changed our mindset since then, and we're playing more towards the meta.
It's early in the season, so a lot of teams are making a lot of mistakes, and that includes us. It's best to give ourselves some insurance and pick towards the mid game while we fix our team problems.
To improve, a team must have those difficult conversations and solve their problems. How does the Golden Guardians team culture allow those conversations to unfold in a healthy manner and lead to quick improvement?
In my rookie year, it was really hard for me to talk to my teammates about problems. For one, I wasn't too sure exactly what our problems were, and I felt like I wasn't in a place to say those type of things because I was a rookie. I had no experience, so what did I know? I had a lot of those types of thoughts.
This year, it's a top-to-bottom approach on Golden Guardians. Everyone is open to talk about anything. If you have problems with the food that's being made, or what time wake-up is, the organization is always willing to listen. This encourages conversation, so it's really healthy.
As far as the players on the roster, I personally feel this team has a lot of really nice people that I can be friends with outside of the game. We do things together outside of the game, and that really helps. For example, if we're at the gym, one of us can posit a question about a matchup in passing to the others. I went kickboxing with Hauntzer. I got my *** beat, but that's team bonding, you know?
Having those connections make everyone open to talk. We don't see it as someone trying to **** on somebody else or try to ruin their day, we see it as all of us collectively trying to improve as a team. One thing we had a problem with in previous weeks was not making enough sacrifices for other teammates. We were just playing to our own lanes and calling the jungler as opposed to helping the jungler. Now, we're learning to sacrifice more for each other, and that makes us an even better team.
After a strong rookie year individually, are you able to give feedback more comfortably?
I don't think it's a matter of comfort, I think I just got tired of losing. I lost my entire rookie year, and I want to put an end to that trend, so I take that seriousness with me into every single day. I work my hardest, and when someone's ******* up, it's going to be brought up. want to win, and I want to do everything it takes for us to win as a team.
How has developing synergy in the bot lane with Olleh gone thus far?
We started playing together in December, and we would duo all day and night. As soon as we'd wake up, we'd message each other and queue up for more games. We've played a lot together, and I feel that we are a really strong bot lane.
I'm really glad that I have the opportunity to play with Olleh. He has experience playing with Doublelift, who is a really strong ADC player. Olleh has taught me so many things that Doublelift would have done situationally, and it really helps me improve my gameplay. I want to be one of the best ADs in NA, so Olleh's really helping me and pushing me towards that. He doesn't want me to be mediocre.
When we first started playing together in December, Olleh told me that I needed to get better and that he was going to help me improve and make me the best I could possibly be. As a player, I'm very good at taking criticism and I feel like I can catch onto things pretty quickly. Olleh gave me a bunch of pointers, so I've taken all of that to heart and improved a lot since we started playing together.
Is it intimidating knowing Olleh played with Doublelift last year as his laning partner?
Honestly, I just try to focus on working on myself. At the moment, Doublelift is a better player than I am. He's really strong, but I know for a fact that if I keep working hard and staying diligent with what I've been doing, I will be better than him.
Great to hear that confidence. Where do you think you and Olleh can rank as a bot lane by the end of the spring split?
I don't think we had a very strong showing as a bot lane in the first two weeks, but even looking towards the future, it's still a bit early to say. I definitely think we are one of the strongest bot lanes in the LCS, and with time, hopefully we can prove that on stage.
What was the most important thing you learned in your rookie year?
The main thing I took away from my first year on Golden Guardians was how to learn in defeat. We encountered a lot of those, and for a lot of players, it's really easy to write off a defeat and not watch the replay. You don't want to think about your loss and focus on the negatives in your life, but I think analyzing why you lost and taking away what you can do better for your future games is really important. A lot of people say losing is improving, so I think I improved a lot in my rookie year.
Golden Guardians also kept Contractz on the roster from last year. What do you think it was about you two as players that made the team want to build the new roster around you?
Juan and I are really easy to talk to and friendly. We're really nice people and always open to conversation, and we'll pick whatever it takes to win our team the game. He picked Volibear last split, and I played Heimerdinger *laughs* there was a bunch of dumb stuff like that. I feel like we're pretty flexible both in and out of game and easy to talk to, but on top of that, we're genuinely good players. The organization saw those things in both of us and decided to keep us.
Now that you've had a year to establish yourself in the LCS, how do you want the community to perceive you as a player?
That's an interesting question, I've never thought about that...I'm honestly not sure, but I do know that a lot of people think I'm a 'KDA player' or that I'm incapable of making flashy plays. I think people will see as the split continues that I can play aggressively and step up to the plate for my team and help us come out with wins.
Thanks for the interview, deftly. Would you like to say anything to the GGS fans?
It's been a tough three weeks or so, but I'm really glad that you all are still supporting us. Hopefully, in the future weeks, we will come out with more wins.